Ten years ago, Shimoni trading center in Lungalunga, was a ghost town. The center which is at the farthest end of Kenya near Vanga, which borders Tanzania, was only known for fishing activities. A few large boats from Pemba Island in Tanzania would also dock at the Shimoni jetty to load or offload goods.

Despite being an entry point to Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Reserve, Wasini Island, and Shimoni Slave Caves, very few tourists would visit the area due to the poor state of the murram road that connected to the Likoni-Lungalunga highway.

However, changes started being witnessed after the tarmacking of the 15km Kanana-Shimoni road, which made the area more accessible in 2020. Today, the town has a new face with more businesses, shops, restaurants, and hotels.

In place of the previous semi-permanent buildings, more permanent ones are being set up along the road. Public transport vehicles, tuktuks, and boda bodas have also increased operations on the route.

Mbwana Mohammed, who owns a fish shop and restaurant at the center, admits that over the last 10 years, the area has turned from a traditional deserted village to a busy town.

“We never used to have businesses like cyber cafés, general shops have also increased in number. The number of people visiting the area as tourists, for business or personal reasons has also risen,” he explained.

Fathy Feroz, the proprietor of Amigo Tours, a marine tour company, says that since the completion of the road, more tourists have been visiting the area.

“It was so difficult to get to Shimoni and to the Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Reserve where tourists enjoy watching the dolphins, snorkeling, and touring Wasini Island. The rocky and bumpy road was a great challenge,” says Mr. Feroz. He explains that currently, most tourists drive themselves to the Kenya Wildlife Service offices and later hire boats to visit the park.

The construction of the Sh2 billion Shimoni Port, which is awaiting an official launch by President William Ruto, is further expected to open up the area. The port includes cold storage facilities, a larger jetty, and other modern facilities to boost the blue economy, which a majority of the residents depend on.

Investors have already shown interest in the remote area. The growing demand for land has led to an increase in prices, despite documentation challenges faced by residents making it difficult for them to claim ownership. Late last year, a section of residents from Shimoni demonstrated claiming that a piece of land they have been living on was being targeted for grabbing by private investors.

The granting of citizenship to the Pemba community, who live close to Shimoni, is expected to help solve land injustices through the legal acquisition of land titles and documents.


SOURCE: The Nation

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